ENGLEWOOD—One argument against the Denver Broncos drafting Baker Mayfield is that in Chad Kelly they already have Baker Mayfield.
Kelly and Mayfield share some strikingly similar characteristics. They’re both on the shorter side of ideal quarterback size with Kelly standing 6-foot-2 and Mayfield listed at 6-1. They both are from the athletic mold of quarterback where they can pick up first downs with their legs. They both succeeded at big-time college programs with Kelly playing big for Mississippi against Alabama in back-to-back years and Mayfield putting up extraordinary numbers while lifting Oklahoma past Ohio State and Oklahoma State.
And they both have a streak of combativeness within their confident personalities.
There are differences, too. Mayfield is projected to go anywhere from top 10 overall to second-round pick in the NFL Draft that will be held April 26-28, while Kelly became the Mr. Irrelevant, or last, selection in last year’s draft when the Broncos took him No.253 overall.
Kelly is well ahead of Mayfield, though, as an NFL quarterback. Even if he fully redshirted his rookie season to recover from injuries to his knee and throwing wrist, Kelly said the past season was invaluable to his development.
“There’s so much more you can learn but I think throughout these 16 games, 17 weeks, I’ve learned so much just the game of football, and situations, the different coverages defenses can play,’’ Kelly told 9News the day after the Broncos’ season ended. “I mean we’ve seen about every single coverage this year. You’ve got to perfect the offense but also you have to study the defense and know where you’re going with all your reads and stuff.’’
Broncos general manager John Elway has ignited exhaustive talk-show fodder and party conversation by letting it be known he will make significant changes to his quarterback position this offseason. The Broncos could make a huge splash in free agency with the likes of Drew Brees or Kirk Cousins, or try to finagle a way to acquire Alex Smith or Case Keenum. They could drop down a level and figure out how to acquire Eli Manning or another level for a Josh McCown, Tyrod Taylor or, heaven forbid, Jay Cutler.
The Manning, McCown, Taylor, Cutler types would be almost certainly followed by the Broncos taking another QB with their No. 5 overall draft pick.
The possibilities there would be Josh Rosen, Josh Allen, Mason Rudolph, Sam Darnold, Lamar Jackson and Mayfield.
It’s dizzying number of names for most Broncos followers to think about, but not for one current member of the roster.
“It doesn’t faze me at all,’’ Kelly said. “I’m going to still go in and work every single day and work my tail off and try to get better.’’
The Broncos are expected to allow Brock Osweiler to leave for free agency and they may attempt to trade away Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch.
Kelly wouldn’t have a realistic chance of starting next year, but he could possibly become the Broncos’ No. 3 quarterback with a chance to become the backup at some point during the year.
Not surprising for a hyper competitive, elite athlete, Kelly isn’t setting his sights on No. 3.
“I’m going in there thinking I can play football,’’ Kelly said. “I have great players around me and also there are other great quarterbacks in the room. Every day I’m going to go in and work as hard as I can and try to help this team win, whether it’s in a backup role or as a starting quarterback.’’